Indian Express Newspaper 17th January 2020

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1)Decade ended 2019 hottest ever, last year the second hottest:- Since the 1960s, each decade has been significantly warmer than the previous one. This trend continued in the 2010s, and five of the hottest years ever were experienced in the second half of the decade.

United States government agencies on Wednesday said the decade ended 2019 was the hottest on record, and that the year gone by was the second hottest ever.

The announcement about 2019 was the same as the one by the European weather agency’s Copernicus climate change programme earlier this month — which confirmed the projection by the World Meteorological Organisation at the COP25 Madrid climate summit.

ANALYSES by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed that global average surface temperatures last year were nearly 1 degree Celsius higher than the average from the middle of last century.

CLIMATE HOTSPOTS of 2019 include Australia, Alaska and southern Africa. Central Canada and the northern US were among the few places that experienced cooler-than-average conditions.

2)Explained: What is Punjab’s new Right to Business Bill?:- The Punjab Cabinet this week gave its approval to a Punjab Right to Business Bill, 2020, a law aimed at ensuring ease of doing business for the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.

Under the law, an MSME unit can be set up after ‘In-Principle’ approval from the District Bureau of Enterprise, headed by the Deputy Commissioner, working under the guidance of the State Nodal Agency, headed by the Director, Industries. Approval for units in approved Industrial Parks will be given in three working days. For new enterprises outside approved Industrial Parks, the decision on the “Certificate of In-Principle Approval” shall be taken by the District Level Nodal Agency within 15 working days, as per the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee.

Unit owners will have three and a half years after setting up the unit to obtain seven approvals from three departments.

3)Suspension of the Internet: What the Rules say, what the SC underlined:- On January 9, the Supreme Court significantly strengthened checks on the government’s power to shut down the Internet.

What do the Rules say?
The Rules, issued under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, stipulate that only the Home Secretary of the Union or a state can pass an order, and that the order must include the reasons for the decision. The order should be forwarded to a review committee the day after it is issued, and must be reviewed by the committee within five days to assess its compliance with Section 5(2) of The Telegraph Act, under which the government has the power to block the transmission of messages during a public emergency or for public safety.

In the case of the central government, the review committee comprises the Cabinet Secretary and the Secretaries of the Departments of Legal Affairs and Telecommunications. In the case of states, the committee comprises the Chief Secretary, Secretary, Law or Legal Remembrancer In-Charge, Legal Affairs, and a Secretary to the state government (other than the Home Secretary). In “unavoidable circumstances”, the order can be issued by an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary or above, authorised by the Centre or the state Home Secretary.

Telecom service providers must designate nodal officers to handle such requests.

Some Other Laws:- Internet shutdowns were ordered under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which gives District Magistrates broad powers during dangerous situations. Even after 2017, many local shutdowns are issued under this law.

Section 69(A) of the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008 gives the government powers to block particular websites, not the Internet as a whole.

The Centre has never ordered a nationwide Internet shutdown. Still, India tops the list of Internet shutdowns globally.

The court said that because the Rules require the order to be in accordance with Section 5(2) of The Telegraph Act, the order must be during a “public emergency” or in the “interest of public safety”. Also, the suspension must be “necessary” and “unavoidable”.

“In furtherance of the same, the State must assess the existence of an alternate less intrusive remedy,” the court said. “Having said so, we may note that the… Suspension Rules have certain gaps, which are required to be considered by the legislature.”

4)Shreya Singhal case was one of the defining rulings of modern internet law:- In a landmark ruling earlier this month, India’s Supreme Court held that citizens’ right to freedom of speech and rights to carry out business using the internet are constitutionally protected.

The new decision builds in part on an equally important 2015 case, Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, in which the Court defined key rules for the relationship between democratic governments and commercial internet platforms. That case called on courts and government agencies — not companies like Google or Facebook — to decide what speech and information violates the law, and must be removed from public view on the internet.

Shreya Singhal corrected a serious problem with platforms’ incentives to remove lawful content from the internet. Platforms routinely receive allegations that users have violated the law from accusers who demand removal of particular posts or accounts.

IT MINISTRY PROPOSED RULES:- The IT ministry’s proposed Rules depart dramatically from this principle. For one thing, they require platforms to act on government demands in just 24 hours, with no mechanism to correct mistakes or clarify confusing orders. As dozens of public interest groups including the Internet Freedom Foundation and Human Rights Watch have pointed out, that is a recipe for over-compliance and unnecessary removal of lawful expression. The Rules also, alarmingly, require platforms to build “automated tools” to proactively police and remove internet users’ speech.

Filtering mandates raise equally serious concerns about economic development and innovation. Startups and small platforms can’t afford to invest $100 million in filtering technologies, as YouTube says it has done. A law requiring filters might be economically tolerable to incumbents, but devastating to their smaller competitors — not to mention non-profit operators of forums for online speech, as Wikipedia pointed out in comments opposing the IT Ministry’s proposal.

The laws governing internet platforms can and should face careful public review. In many cases, change may be appropriate. But the IT Ministry’s mandate for rushed and automated content removal is a major step in the wrong direction.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: